Sunnylands or Rancho Mirage? ASEAN and the South China Sea

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STANFORD: It was meant to be a sunny summit. Welcoming ASEAN’s leaders at the Sunnylands estate, President Obama said he had invited them to southern California, not cold and snowy Washington, to reciprocate the warm welcomes he had received in their own countries on his seven presidential trips to Southeast Asia. Appreciative laughter ensued.
Naturally Obama ignored the futility implied by the name of the city where Sunnylands sits: Rancho Mirage. But as a metaphor for ASEAN’s hopes of moderating China’s behavior in the South China Sea, and the summit’s efficacy in that regard, the name of the city is more apt than that of the estate. Rancho Mirage lies in the northern tip of the Sonoran Desert. In the driver’s seat on a desert road in the shimmering heat, ASEAN might be fooled into seeing a geopolitical oasis – a meaningful agreement with China on the South China Sea – finally near and achievable with continuing patience and faith in the “ASEAN Way” of regional diplomacy by consensus and declaration.
The Sunnylands Declaration, released on 16 February at the end of the two-day summit, lays out 17 principles to guide US-ASEAN cooperation going forward. The fifth of these reaffirms “respect and support for ASEAN Centrality and ASEAN-led mechanisms in the evolving regional architecture of the Asia-Pacific.”

Read more: http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/sunnylands-or-rancho-mirage-asean-and-south-china-sea

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